Although the word "cologne" -- short for "eau de cologne" -- simply refers to an essential oil scent concentration between 2 and 5 percent, colognes are typically marketed to men rather than women, though anyone can wear them. Many would argue that the most seductive "cologne" is actually just the scent that accompanies clean skin, hair and underarm deodorant, but for special occasions it can be considered appropriate to splash on something extra.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for with cologne. Cheap colognes are often formulated with artificial ingredients that can irritate and dry the skin. Avoid colognes with any of the following listed in their ingredients: benzyl alcohol, benzyl acetate, benzaldehyde, limonene, linalool, a-pinene, ethyl acetate, and acetone. The best colognes are more costly and contain naturally derived solutions and oils. Look for a high-quality cologne at the men's perfume counter at an upscale department store.
Selecting the Right Fragrance
The same cologne can smell completely different on one wearer than on another. To make sure that a scent you liked on someone else will work on you, test a small amount on the inside of your wrist to see how well it blends with your skin type. People with oily skin will have different results than people with dry or normal skin. Before you test a new cologne, spray it on a card or stick of paper available at the department store cologne counter. This will keep your scent experimentation from becoming an overwhelming mixture of different colognes on the same area of your skin.
A "basenote" is the cosmetic term for the dominant scent or set of scents in a given fragrance. When selecting an after-hours cologne, dark, rich basenotes such as amber, patchouli, tobacco and leather are appealing scents. Colognes that contain these scents include Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, and Polo Blue by Ralph Lauren.
Citrus Top Notes
Just as a "basenote" denotes the dominant scent of a cologne, the "top notes" are the secondary scents that combine to create a specific cologne. There are generally many more discernible top notes in a cologne than there are dominating basenotes. Citrus top notes -- scents like grapefruit, lemon, grass, and lime -- lend the wearer a fresh-from-the-shower scent. At the end of a long workday, citrus-scented colognes can be a great pick-me-up and are also alluring. Colognes that have citrus top notes include 1 Million by Paco Rabanne, Acqua di Parma Colonia, and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme.
Dense Top Notes
Just as citrus top notes belong to the cadre of fresh-smelling colognes, men's fragrances with dense, woody top notes such as bergamot, cedar, wormwood, and cardamom create a warm, dark, intriguing overall effect. Colognes that are formulated with dense top notes include Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme, Ralph Lauren Polo Black, and Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier.